Filmmaker James DeMonaco remembers the day “Rocky III” hit theaters like it was yesterday. On Staten Island in 1982, it was an all-out event.
He stood in line for four hours to get tickets and saw it twice a day. Children at his school carried the poster like a trophy. There were even theater brawls and feuds between “tough guys” and “nerds” over who was allowed to like the character. These are the memories that inspired “It’s night, ”Which follows a family from Staten Island on the opening day of the film.
DeMonaco wrote and directed “This is the Night,” which is newly available on video on demand and stars Naomi Watts and Frank Grillo as parents of two teenage boys. All of them have their own crises to go through (besides getting tickets to the movie). Father’s restaurant is in trouble and he may have to lean on a local gangster (Bobby Cannavale) to help him. Younger brother Tony (Lucius Hoyos) tries to impress a girl and make it to her party on time. And the eldest, Christian (Jonah Hauer-King) has a revelation on his identity, with the gentle encouragement of his mother.
It’s a big departure for DeMonaco, who is best known for creating “The Purge”. Somewhat by accident, he spent most of a decade in this world after the first film went from something no one would fund (“too anti-American” was a phrase he heard often) to a franchise success that grossed over $ 90 million on a budget of $ 3 million.
But “This is the Night” is something that has been brewing for years, and with the support of his friends at Blumhouse, he decided the time had finally come.
“It was kind of my way of repaying my love of cinema that kind of saved me,” DeMonaco said. “I always say, it’s like my religion in life is cinema … that’s how we kind of learned about the world beyond Staten Island.”
He strove to capture this ineffable feeling of “the cinematic experience” in his film. That’s why he asked for four full days of filming inside a movie theater. He wanted it to be grand and lyrical.
“It’s a fascinating time to examine the cultural significance of theatrical cinema and remind ourselves why it is so essential to our society,” said producer Jason Blum.
And yet the DeMonaco movie never actually shows “Rocky III,” which was a debate with everyone from the producers to Sylvester Stallone himself. He tried their way, but it just didn’t work. Plus, he said, “it’s not just about ‘Rocky III’.”
“I hope it becomes more of any movie that has inspired anyone,” he said. “It is about cinema as a universal theme.
Still, it was a special pleasure for an Italian-American – who remembers doing Rocky scrapbooking with his sister – to show Stallone his film.
“In a weird way, I needed him to like it. I’m like, we have to show him the movie. It’ll be weird if he just found out. He wanted to show it on his own, which I fully understand. actually, because he could have hated it, “DeMonaco said.” But someone who worked with him told me early on that at the screening he got up and was shadowboxing with the movie. “
Afterwards, Stallone invited DeMonaco to his place and spoke for a few hours.
“He loves this character. He knows that this character has built his career. And he likes to see other people love him the same way he loves Rocky… he was actually like, yeah, I know you Staten Islanders really love me, ”DeMonaco said. “Spending this day with him was really, really wonderful, a dream come true. All of my friends on Staten Island are jealous of him more than anything I’ve done.
Follow AP film writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahr